January 19, 2018
When Matt Drohan got horseback riding lessons for Christmas one year, he never imagined it would influence his choice of college and ultimately lead to a career in the equine industry.But that’s just what happened.Those riding lessons opened a whole new world that eventually led him to Centenary University, where he is now a senior, president of the student body and an accomplished equestrian with a bright future in the world of horses.

“I started riding when I was a sophomore in high school,” said Drohan, who is pursuing a business major with a minor in equine studies. “That’s when I realized this is what I want to do for a living.”

So when it came time to choose a college, Centenary University, a national leader in equine education, was at the top of his list.

“I visited about 10 schools, as far west as Ohio and as far south as North Carolina,” Drohan said. “I had to decide what institution was going to get me to where I wanted to be in four years and that was Centenary. I haven’t looked back. The last 31/2 years have been nothing short of amazing.”

The Bachelor of Science in Equine Studies at Centenary University, widely recognized as having one of the top equine education programs in the country, provides a comprehensive background in the care and management of horses, with students learning in the classroom, the stable and the riding ring, said Kelly Munz, department chair, Equine Studies. A few years ago, the university added a degree in equine science — a fast-growing major that leads to veterinary careers or work in the equine pharmaceutical industry.

That’s because all of Centenary’s equine studies faculty are practicing professionals — United States Equestrian Federation judges and stewards, equine nutritionists, jump course designers, show managers, attorneys, trainers and others.

Centenary students spend time learning theory in the classroom, while putting that theory into practice riding one of the university’s 100 horses at least twice a week for course credit. Those competing on one of Centenary’s three teams — which rank regularly among the top in the country — get even more saddle time.

“The equine classes are more in-depth and teach you why we do the things we do in the horse world,” Drohan said. “In the ring, we learn how to do those things.”

While students can bring their own horses, most opt to ride Centenary’s mounts, as the university’s reputation draws donations of some of the best show horses in the country.

“We ride a different horse every week, based on our trainers’ assessments and our need to develop certain skills,” Drohan said.

“We’re very fortunate to have the trainers and instructors we have,” Drohan said.  “Each faculty member is really involved not only in the Centenary program, but outside in the real world.  They’re able to teach us real-world and practical skills and connect us with other professionals in the industry.”

Those connections mean that Centenary students enjoy some of the industry’s most coveted internships in training and sales as well as at veterinary practices and clinics, equine publications, pharmaceutical companies, public relations and marketing firms, and lesson facilities.

Drohan, for example, has held an internship every summer and winter break, working alongside some of the top equestrians in the country, including, but not limited to New Jersey resident and five-time Olympian Anne Kursinski and fellow Olympian Peter Leone.

“The Centenary name carries weight in this industry. I’ve learned a great, great deal through my internships every year,” Drohan said, adding that he has spent every winter break in Wellington, Fla., a winter mecca for the top horses and riders in the nation.

All this adds up to an incredible experience for committed equestrians who want to spend their lives with the animals they love.

“Our goal is to have students successfully complete their four years and emerge as strong candidates to work in the equine industry,” Munz said. “Most of our students have jobs when they graduate. Our alumni network in the equine world is very, very strong.”

 Nancy Parello